This piece was first published as “For writer David Rakoff, a posthumous debut” in The Times of Israel.
TORONTO — You wouldn’t know it from reading his incisive and humorous award-winning essays, but writing was always very hard forDavid Rakoff. Nothing compared, however, to the difficulties he faced and surmounted in completing his final work, a posthumously published novel, just weeks before he died of cancer at the age of 47 last August.
“Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish,” Rakoff’s, first and only novel, has been released by Doubleday today. Rakoff managed to write the book as he progressively weakened. He did it while in extreme pain and with one arm paralyzed. He recorded the book’s audio version literally days before he passed away.
“He recorded the thing with his last breath,” his father, Dr. Vivian Rakoff, a noted psychiatrist, said in an interview he and his wife Dr. Gina Shochat-Rakoff, a physician, gave The Times of Israel at their Toronto home.
“He was coughing his lungs out, but he was determined to get it done,” his mother said. She had gone to New York to be with her son and went with him to the four two-hour recording sessions at the Manhattan studios of “This American Life,” Ira Glass’ National Public Radio program on which Rakoff had appeared 25 times. “He said, ‘I’m so glad I did that,’ when he finished it.”
“Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish” stands out for a reason other than its posthumous publication. It is written in rhyming iambic pentameter, a fact that comes as a surprise to most people, but not to his parents.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.
Tags: Bill Thomas, David Rakoff, Doubleday, Dr. Gina Rakoff, Dr. Vivian Rakoff, iambic pentameter, Ira Glass, Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish, New York, posthumous novels, rhyming novels, Toronto